Author: Zoe Drewett
Researchers say vaping could lead to an increased risk of developing mouth cancer. A study carried out by the American Chemical Society found evidence to suggest using e-cigarettes raises the level of DNA-damaging compounds in the mouth. If cells in the body are unable to repair the DNA damage after vaping, the risk of cancer can increase, the study claims.
The researchers admit the long-term health effects of using electronic cigarettes are still unknown. Researcher Dr Romel Dator said: ‘We want to characterize the chemicals that vapers are exposed to, as well as any DNA damage they may cause.’
Since they were introduced in 2004, e-cigarettes have been marketed as a safer alternative to smoking. But the team carrying out the study claim genetic material in the oral cells of people who vape could be altered by toxic chemicals. E-cigarettes work by heating a liquid – which usually contains nicotine – into an aerosol that the user inhales. It is often flavoured to taste like fruit, chocolate or bubblegum.
‘It’s clear that more carcinogens arise from the combustion of tobacco in regular cigarettes than from the vapor of e-cigarettes,’ Silvia Balbo, the project’s lead investigator said. ‘However, we don’t really know the impact of inhaling the combination of compounds produced by this device. ‘Just because the threats are different doesn’t mean that e-cigarettes are completely safe.’ The latest study, due to be presented at a meeting of the American Chemical Society this week, analysed the saliva and mouth cells of five e-cigarette users before and after a 15-minute vaping session.
Researchers found levels of the toxic chemicals formaldehyde, acrolein and methylglyoxal had increased after vaping. Now they plan to follow up on the preliminary study with a larger one involving more e-cigarette users. They also want to see how the level of toxic chemicals differs between e-cigarette users and regular cigarette smokers.
According to a 2016 report by the US Surgeon General, 13.5% of middle school students, 37.7% of high school students and 35.8% of 18 to 24-year-olds have used e-cigarettes, compared with 16.4% of adults aged 25 and over. Ms Balbo, a professor at the Masonic Cancer Center at the University of Minnesota, said:
‘Comparing e-cigarettes and tobacco cigarettes is really like comparing apples and oranges. The exposures are completely different. ‘We still don’t know exactly what these e-cigarette devices are doing and what kinds of effects they may have on health, but our findings suggest that a closer look is warranted.’